Monday, April 23, 2012

A port in a Google storm

This morning, I sent emails to twelve local Buddhist Temples and organizations announcing the availability of this blog space for the transmission of information about Buddhist-related and meditation-related events.  Twelve is by no means the entire local selection of Temples and groups, but it's a start.

I mentioned in that email that this will be a noncommercial, unsponsored blog.  In keeping the blog non-monetized, it will help ensure that no favoritism toward any given lineage, institution, or group is implied, and that no personal profit is being sought. 

In my "Welcome" post, I mentioned three reasons that inspired me to develop this blog.  There was actually a fourth reason:  the recent Quan Am Festival at Houston's Vietnam Buddhist Center
Quan Am statue from Wikipedia. 
Houston Chronicle reported on that very large festival so extensively that it actually made the front page of the newspaper's electronic version, complete with thirty-three photographs (!).  And yet upon reading that story, I realized that, not only had I (an avid daily news reader) not heard about the festival in advance, I hadn't even heard of the Temple itself.  When I Google "Houston Buddhism", no mention of this Temple occurs in the first seven pages of links.  In fact, the Chronicle story ranks higher in Google popularity than the Temple itself, despite the fact that the Temple appears to be extensively developed, and (for instance) claims to have the largest Quan Am statue in the Western hemisphere.   

These types of results are not ideal.  While information about this Temple is probably easily accessible to the well-integrated Vietnamese immigrant community, other searchers attempting to discover it would face a difficult task. 

To the end of promoting the exchange of such information across immigrant, convert, and secular meditation communities, please consider forwarding the South Houston Sangha News website link to your friends and like-minded associates.  If you have your own blog, please consider adding this site to your blogroll.  Even if you yourself have no interest in reading regular posts here, you can still be a benefit to other searchers by increasing this site's web traffic.  Google ranks its search returns largely by number of clicks on a site.  The more clicks, the easier this site will be for new searchers to find.

Within the past week, I have had two different associates say to me, in reference to another local Temple, "I have driven by that Temple several times, but I haven't stopped in, because I don't know what's there."  This is the kind of hesitancy and confusion that I hope this blog can help alleviate.  It can be extremely stressful for American convert Buddhists and non-sectarian meditators to search for a Sangha home.  Some American Christian churches respond to searchers using assertive recruitment tactics (random examples here and here; milder forms of recruitment are reportedly common at many other churches).  Any visitor to these churches is vigorously pursued with telephone calls, lectures, and even unannounced visits from congregational recruiters at their personal residence.  Some people may wonder if they would be subjected to a similar type of pressure if they were to visit a local Buddhist group or Temple.  This anxiety coupled with lack of basic knowledge of the different facilities can conspire to keep people away who might otherwise benefit from (and bring benefit to) a Sangha association.

I hope to rectify some of that confusion via a future series of "profile" descriptions of our local groups and Temples.  Until that time, thanks again for reading. 

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